We, the faculty leaders of Cornell’s Center for the Study of Inequality, denounce the recent killings of Black Americans and the suppression of Black and other voices who are peacefully protesting these killings. We are also dismayed by the many other racial inequalities that have become so salient this spring: The greater risk that Black Americans will become ill or die from COVID-19. The greater vulnerability of Black workers to the economic fallout from the pandemic. The greater chance that a Black child will be left behind as schools shift to distance learning or manage cuts to already strained public school budgets.
As scholars of inequality, the events of the last three months, and the racial inequalities that underlie them, ring a familiar tune. Racial disparities in health, labor market experiences, wealth, civil rights, political power, and educational opportunities are by no means new. Neither is the racism that, fundamentally, lies at the core of the social and political arrangements that sustain these disparities.
We also know that racism doesn’t stop at the boundaries of Ithaca, and that many members of the broader Cornell community have experienced discrimination in their own lives, personal and professional. We support our Black students and colleagues who must navigate social and political arrangements that too often devalue their ideas, their work, or even their personhood.
CSI wants to do more than offer words of support. As a research center, one small step we can take is to highlight social science scholarship on racial inequality. We are working on a source list of social scientific scholarship on racial inequality, with a particular focus on highlighting the work of Black scholars. We hope this list will be valuable for students who are interested in additional readings and for faculty who are constructing syllabi. We will post this on our website, with links to free versions of works where we can.
Beginning this year, AY2020/2021, CSI will offer an award and prize for the best undergraduate honors thesis on racial inequality. The undergraduate thesis competition is open to any undergraduate Minor in Inequality Studies, from any major or college at Cornell.
In addition to these immediate steps, in the coming months the CSI leadership will devise other ways to support research and teaching on racial inequality, at Cornell and more broadly, through our programming.
We fully embrace President Pollack’s call to “stand up for those who are oppressed or marginalized, to educate ourselves and others, and to work to ensure that we – our entire society – do better.”
Kim Weeden (Director, CSI; Sociology)
Kendra Bischoff (Sociology; CSI Executive Board)
Ravi Kanbur (Economics/Dyson; CSI Executive Board)
Vida Maralani (Sociology; CSI Executive Board)
Suzanne Mettler (Government; CSI Executive Board)